An interesting paper:

Bob Uttl, Carmela A.White, Daniela Wong Gonzalez, Meta-analysis of faculty’s teaching effectiveness:  Student evaluation of teaching ratings and student learning are not related. Studies in Educational Evaluation, Volume 54, September 2017, Pages 22-42.

Abstract: Student evaluation of teaching (SET) ratings are used to evaluate faculty’s teaching effectiveness based on a widespread belief that students learn more from highly rated professors. The key evidence cited in support of this belief are meta-analyses of multisection studies showing small-to-moderate correlations between SET ratings and student achievement (e.g., Cohen, 1980, 1981; Feldman, 1989). We re-analyzed previously published meta-analyses of the multisection studies and found that their findings were an artifact of small sample sized studies and publication bias. Whereas the small sample sized studies showed large and moderate correlation, the
large sample sized studies showed no or only minimal correlation between SET ratings and learning. Our up-to-date meta-analysis of all multisection studies revealed no significant correlations between the SET ratings and learning. These findings suggest that institutions focused on student learning and career success may want to abandon SET ratings as a measure of faculty’s teaching effectiveness.

title = "Meta-analysis of faculty's teaching effectiveness: Student evaluation of teaching ratings and student learning are not related",
journal = "Studies in Educational Evaluation",
volume = "54",
number = "",
pages = "22 - 42",
year = "2017",
note = "Evaluation of teaching: Challenges and promises",
issn = "0191-491X",
doi = "",
url = "",
author = "Bob Uttl and Carmela A. White and Daniela Wong Gonzalez",
keywords = "Meta-analysis of student evaluation of teaching",
keywords = "Multisection studies",
keywords = "Validity",
keywords = "Teaching effectiveness",
keywords = "Evaluation of faculty",
keywords = "SET and learning correlations"

A press release from Mathematics in Open Access for Journal of Algebraic Combinatorics (2017-07-27) (see also a comment from Tim Gowers):

At the end of June 2017, the four editors-in-chief of the Journal of Algebraic Combinatorics informed Springer that they will not renew their contracts, which terminate on 31 December 2017. Nearly all of the editorial board members will also resign, to form the editorial board of a new journal that will be called Algebraic Combinatorics, run according to Fair Open Access Principles. The new journal Algebraic Combinatorics will be up and running very shortly, with interim editors-in-chief Satoshi Murai and Vic Reiner. The transition to Fair Open Access is supported by the organisation Mathematics in Open Access (MathOA). The editors of the Journal of Algebraic Combinatorics are Akihiro Munemasa, Christos Athanasiadis, Hugh Thomas and Hendrik van Maldeghem. Once their contracts with Springer expire, they will become editors-in-chief at Algebraic Combinatorics.

Why now? ‘There wasn’t a particular crisis. It has been becoming more and more clear that commercial journal publishers are charging high subscription fees and high Article Processing Charges (APCs), profiting from the volunteer labour of the academic community, and adding little value. It is getting easier and easier to automate the things that they once took care of. The actual printing and distribution of paper copies is also much less important than it has been in the past; this is something which we have decided we can do without’, says Hugh Thomas.

We were inspired by the Linguistics in Open Access (LingOA) project that flipped 4 journals in linguistics last year. We therefore also started a foundation Mathematics in Open Access (MathOA), that will help other journals in mathematics flip to Fair Open Access’ says Mark Wilson, one of the founding members of MathOA.


Posted by: Alexandre Borovik | July 19, 2017

Matrix Algebra

Lectures on Matrix Algebra, last update 19 July 2017, 09:56.

Posted by: Alexandre Borovik | March 30, 2017

Two elementary problems

Sketch the curve given by parametric equations

(a) \(x =\cos^2 t, \; y = \sin^2 t\)

(b) \(x = e^t, \; y = e^2t\)

Posted by: Alexandre Borovik | December 28, 2016

Immorality of forcing choice on others

I very much hope that this story is a hoax, I tried to locate the source on the Internet, but failed.

If it is not a hoax, then it is a huge breach of profession norms- made in a hurry and under stress, but still a breach. One should not put children in the situation of choice almost impossible for them -teachers should remember that. Actually, it is not a good idea to force moral  choice on people. In most  cases, it is immoral to force moral choice on others.

Posted by: Alexandre Borovik | December 28, 2016

Georgio de Chirico, “Mathematicians”

Georgio de Chirico, “Mathematicians”

Posted by: Alexandre Borovik | December 28, 2016

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: a missing component

Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs

misses a component highlighted by Ali Nesin (personal communication): responsibility. He formulates the triad

Safety – Independence – Responsibility

as the guiding principles of his work with children and teenagers at Nesin Vakfi  and the Nesin Mathematics Village.

Posted by: Alexandre Borovik | February 8, 2015

Soldiers and horses

From a discussion at a LinkedIn group on mathematics education:

Q: You’re the general of an army. You have many soldiers and many horses. Each soldier needs one horse. What’s the fastest, most efficient way to see if the # of soldiers = the # of horses?

A: Tell the soldiers that the war is over, and  that they can go home, and take one horse each.

There is an interesting class of mathematical problems: intentionally ambiguous, because the rules of the game (or criteria for correctness of the answer) are not set;  a solution should, first of, recover – or set –  the rules, and set in a way that makes it immediately obvious that this is the only sensible set of rules, and the only sensible answer.

I do not know what were the intentions of the person who asked this question, but the answer perfectly fits into this humorous (or comical) side of mathematics.

Breaking the rules (or a  clash between two interpretation of the rule, or finding a consistent set of rules that fit into the problem better than an inspected answer) is the essence of many situation which perceived by humans as comical.

This is the rarely discussed  “comical” aspect of mathematics.

Posted by: Alexandre Borovik | February 5, 2015

The Metaphysician’s Nightmare

I had at one time a very bad fever of which I almost died. In my fever I had a long consistent delirium. I dreamt that I was in Hell, and that Hell is a place full of all those happenings that are improbable but not impossible. The effects of this are curious. Some of the damned, when they first arrive below, imagine that they will beguile the tedium of eternity by games of cards. But they find this impossible, because, whenever a pack is shuffled, it comes out in perfect order, beginning with the Ace of Spades and ending with the King of Hearts. There is a special department of Hell for students of probability. In this department there are many typewriters and many monkeys. Every time that a monkey walks on a typewriter, it types by chance one of Shakespeare’s sonnets. There is another place of torment for physicists. In this there are kettles and fires, but when the kettles are put on the fires, the water in them freezes. There are also stuffy rooms. But experience has taught the physicists never to open a window because, when they do, all the air rushes out and leaves the room a vacuum.
— Bertrand Russell
‘The Metaphysician’s Nightmare’, Nightmares of Eminent Persons and Other Stories (1954), 38-9.

This is the last pre-publication version of my paper:

Alexandre V. Borovik, Calling a spade a spade: Mathematics in the new pattern of division of labour, arXiv:1407.1954v3 [math.HO].

The growing disconnection of the majority of population from mathematics is
becoming a phenomenon that is increasingly difficult to ignore. This paper
attempts to point to deeper roots of this cultural and social phenomenon. It
concentrates on mathematics education, as the most important and better
documented area of interaction of mathematics with the rest of human culture.
I argue that new patterns of division of labour have dramatically changed the
nature and role of mathematical skills needed for the labour force and
correspondingly changed the place of mathematics in popular culture and in the
mainstream education. The forces that drive these changes come from the tension
between the ever deepening specialisation of labour and ever increasing length
of specialised training required for jobs at the increasingly sharp cutting
edge of technology.
Unfortunately these deeper socio-economic origins of the current systemic
crisis of mathematics education are not clearly spelt out, neither in cultural
studies nor, even more worryingly, in the education policy discourse; at the
best, they are only euphemistically hinted at.
This paper is an attempt to describe the socio-economic landscape of
mathematics education without resorting to euphemisms.

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